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Hitchens Experiences Waterboarding but What Does It Prove?

Haroon Siddique

It's official: waterboarding is torture. Why? Because Christopher Hitchens says so. But the belligerent writer only pronounced it such after trying it himself.

He began in macho fashion, "determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea", but succumbed after just seconds.

He went on to write: " ... if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

It is admirable that Hitchens has apparently changed his mind after previously appearing to categorise the practice as "extreme interrogation", although even in the article he says he does "not trust anybody" who does not understand the viewpoint that "when contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay".

But why did Hitchens have to be subjected to waterboarding before accepting it was torture? Critics of the practice such as Amnesty International have been drawing attention to the horrific nature of waterboarding for some time.

Hitchens, who supported the Iraq war, is notoriously contemptuous of those who criticise the invasion or those whom he suspects of anti-American sentiment.

But even the rightwing Fox News had a journalist see for himself the effects of waterboarding. Steve Harrigan concluded: "As far as torture goes .... at least to me it seemed like a pretty efficient mechanism."

So has Hitchens actually added anything to the debate?

Haroon Siddique is a news reporter on the Guardian website.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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